Edmonton: Saturday qualifying notes

ZWOLSMAN STAGES LATE RALLY IN EDMONTON TO CLAIM FOURTH CAREER TOYOTA ATLANTIC POLE POSITION EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 16, 2005) -- As if overcoming mechanical problems wasn't enough, rookie Charles Zwolsman ( ...


EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 16, 2005) -- As if overcoming mechanical problems wasn't enough, rookie Charles Zwolsman (#11 Landtran Systems/Boychuk Transport) also conquered a wet track Saturday in Edmonton to earn his fourth career pole position in the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama.

The Dutch driving sensation recovered from a damaged suspension on his car suffered in Friday's opening round of qualifying at the 1.973-mile Finning International Speedway airport road course and rallied for a blistering lap of 1:07.628 (105.028 mph). The impressive time, posted by Zwolsman with just one minute left in today's final round of qualifying, established a new Atlantic course record on the track in Edmonton that is new to the series schedule this season.

Even more impressive than the dramatic timing of Zwolsman's polewinning performance was the fact that it came on a green race track that was still drying from a torrential downpour this morning that left standing water on the 14-turn race circuit. Track conditions continued to improve throughout the qualifying session as the skies began to clear, but lap times for nearly all competitors were significantly slower than Friday's qualifying marks in Edmonton. Only five drivers improved their times from Friday in the changing track conditions and Zwolsman was the only driver among the top eight qualifiers to better their effort from yesterday.

After pacing Friday's session with a fast lap of 1:07.678 (104.950 mph), Tonis Kasemets (#6 Flexovit Abrasives/MK Ind./TMI/Redline Oil) wound up fifth in today's session. But the Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis driver will start second in Sunday's Napa Auto Parts Presents the Toyota Atlantic Challenge of Edmonton (tape-delayed broadcast on SPEED Channel - Saturday, July 23 at 2 p.m. ET) based on his provisional polewinning time from yesterday.

Kasemets has now qualified among the top five in seven consecutive events this season, but he continues to chase Zwolsman in the series championship standings. With the point earned for winning the pole today, Zwolsman now leads Kasemets 187-180 in the battle for the 2005 Atlantic title.

Polestar Racing Group driver Katherine Legge (#12 PKV Racing) completed her top qualifying effort of her rookie season by carding a fast lap of 1:07.826 (104.721 mph). That time was established in Friday's opening round of qualifying, but the speedy Brit backed it up today with the second-fastest lap behind Zwolsman. The winner of the season-opening race in Long Beach, Legge will start third on Sunday.

After leading both rounds of practice this weekend, Legge's Polestar teammate - Antoine Bessette (#3 Unik Auto Design) of St. Bruno, Quebec, Canada -- qualified fourth based on his Friday fast time of 1:07.846 (104.690 mph). Bessette, who sits third in the championship standings, now 18 points behind Zwolsman, has qualified in the top five in all eight races in his rookie Atlantic season.

German first-year racer Andreas Wirth (#8 Wurges Windows and Doors) also kept alive his streak of top-five qualifying efforts this season as his time of 1:07.978 (104.487 mph) earned him a fifth-place starting spot. After finishing on the podium in the last five Atlantic events, Wirth is aiming to keep another streak going on Sunday.

Starting from sixth position in tomorrow's race will be American racer Al Unser III (#10 BOSPoker.net/PKV Racing). The son of legendary open-wheel racer Al Unser Jr. posted a fast qualifying time of 1:09.026 (102.900 mph) for Brooks Associates Racing.

David Martinez (#7 Roshfrans/US Racetronics) of Mexico wound up seventh in the final qualifying rundown as he established a top lap of 1:09.794 (101.768 mph), while Canadian owner/driver Eric Jensen (#2 Konica Minolta) was eighth quick with a time of 1:11.229 (99.718 mph).

The leading series qualifier in the Yokohama Tire C2 Cup class was Daryl Leiski (#63 Speedway Motors) of British Columbia. Leiski was ninth overall and fastest among the five C2 competitors this weekend with a top time of 1:12.724 (97.668 mph). C2 points leader Justin Sofio (#15 RLM Investments) of Mathiasen Motorsports rounded out the top 10 as he clocked in at 1:13.290 (96.914 mph).

The 240 HP Atlantic machines return to the Finning International Speedway circuit on Sunday morning for a 15-minute warmup session at 9 a.m. MT. Round 8 of the Toyota Atlantic Championship is scheduled for 32 laps (63.136 miles) or 50 minutes and will take the green flag at 11 a.m. Follow all of tomorrow's action by visiting the official series web site, www.toyotaatlantic.com and clicking on the Timing link on the front page of the site.


Zwolsman claimed the $1,000 Toyota pole award for leading today's final round of qualifying.

With today's effort, Zwolsman has now qualified among the top three drivers in seven consecutive races this season.

Edmonton race officials reported that 66,250 people attended today's activities, bringing the two-day total for the event to a whopping 121,972 fans. Another capacity crowd is expected on Sunday.

Quotes from the top three drivers from today's qualifying session follow:

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN (#11 Condor Motorsports): "I really don't know where this pole position is coming from. I think that all the odds were against me with the rainy whether this morning that washed out the rubber from the track. So I was not expecting anything like that and, to be honest, I was not really pushing for it. But it turned out good for me. It was a good way for us to recover from our two mechanical failures yesterday and in Toronto last weekend. (On the track) I think it is really good. I enjoy it very much. (On the race) We seem to have a pretty consistent car. During the session we were consistently faster than the field. (Referring to Kasemet's comment below) Since it is not Christmas, I kind of hope that Santa Claus stays away."

TONIS KASEMETS (#6 Flexovit Abrasive Prods/MK/TMI/Red Line Oil -- Dan Cobb Racing/Team Tonis): "We really don't know what went wrong today. The car handled extremely well but we were two seconds off. I don't know how to explain it. I can't even change the set up because it is very good. Maybe Santa Claus will bring the speed back. Maybe with a good night's sleep, we will have some new ideas, but as of right now, I really don't know what to do. (On the race) I hope we will have a clean start and that the track is going to stay green the whole race. Then it will depend if I have the speed back: I might go forward or I might be struggling. We'll see. (On the crowd) It's been great to have so many people in the grandstands. They are very enthusiastic fans. That's great."

KATHERINE LEGGE (#12 PKV Racing -- Polestar Racing Group): "The weekend is going pretty well for us so far. We have decided not to push to hard because it is very easy to make mistakes on this track. I think we could have been a bit faster today but I am not sure we would have been faster than Zwolsman. Overall, it is a great day. I was lucky enough to get a good gap on the track because there was a lot of traffic out there. And then, I managed to put it together. (On the start to the race tomorrow) I am really happy I'm starting up front because there are not to many spots where you can pass here, with all these fast corners. (On the changing conditions) I was happy with the rain because I am so used to wet conditions. I was fast this morning. But the track will be dry tomorrow and I am looking forward to have some fun racing."

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Katherine Legge , Eric Jensen , David Martinez , Antoine Bessette , Charles Zwolsman , Tonis Kasemets , Justin Sofio , Andreas Wirth , Dan Cobb , Al Unser III